Autopsy

By JANUARY GILL O’NEIL

 

I have read the report—inconclusive.
Yet, I know how much your brain weighs,

your liver, your heart. Your ordinary,
damaged heart. I know it by the gram.

I think about the last hands to touch you,
your cool body fully fixed in rigor.

Hospital band around your left wrist,
a tag on your right great toe.

Your eyes were unremarkably blue.
Once, I told you you’d be dead in five years

and I was right. I have forgiven myself
for saying that awful thing people say

when they can’t hear their own joy,
when anger becomes connective tissue,

when you looked at me like a stranger,
already estranged from this life to the next.

This is not an elegy or an apology,
the lungs taking in too much water—

this is a memory coming up for air.

 

January Gill O’Neil is the author of Rewilding; Misery Islands, winner of a 2015 Paterson Award for Literary Excellence; and Underlife. She is an associate professor at Salem State University and serves on the boards of AWP, Mass Poetry, and Montserrat College of Art. The recipient of fellowships from Cave Canem and the Barbara Deming Memorial Fund, O’Neil is the 2019–2020 John and Renée Grisham Writer-in-Residence at the University of Mississippi, Oxford, where she lives with her two children this academic year.

[Purchase Issue 19 here.] 

Autopsy

Related Posts

Meron Hadero

The Wall: A Short Story Excerpt

MERON HADERO
My family had moved to the US a few weeks earlier from Ethiopia via Berlin, so I knew no English, but was fluent in Amharic and German. I’d speak those sometimes to strangers or just mumble under my breath, never getting an answer until the day I met Herr Weill.

Natali Petricic Headshot

Mama from the Other Island

NATALI PETRICIC
Aloysius is missing. The thought flickers through my mind each time I look at the photo. I never mention the baby I lost. Why burden others? But I think about him every time I hold the black and white, willing him to appear.

Alisa Koyrakh headshot

Until the Deer Return

ALISA KOYRAKH
On February third, 1966, a Soviet spacecraft reached the moon. Zhenya read about it on February fifth. The newspaper lay on the stool next to their bed for two days before she looked at it.